Medical records are crucial to personal injury cases. The records provide details about the claimant’s injuries, allow both sides to assess the viability of the case and calculate damages, and the records also show whether the treating doctors exercised reasonable care. But as essential as these documents are, retrieving everything you need in a timely manner can be a challenge. However, there are ways of making the process of document retrieval easier, more efficient, and cost-effective. Here are five tips on retrieving records for personal injury cases.
Obtain an Accurate Patient Authorization as Soon as Possible
In order to request medical records on behalf of your client, every single medical provider requires a HIPAA-compliant patient authorization. (HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). The authorization form will typically include:
- Patient’s name
- Patient’s contact information (mailing address, phone number, email address)
- Patient’s date of birth
- Patient’s social security number
- Patient’s insurance medical ID number or policy provider number
- The date(s) of the medical service or treatment
- List of records being requested
- How the patient or third party would like the records delivered
- Patient’s signature and date
It is essential to obtain this patient authorization form as soon as possible, and to verify that all the information is filled out, signed, and accurate. Many US medical service providers have their own, special authorization forms. (In addition to records management and fee requirements). The more you know about these providers before requesting medical records, the more likely you will be able to work effectively with them and obtain the correct documents in a timely manner. It is also important to note that some states also require that the patient authorization include the state law allowing for the release of medical records to authorized third parties.
Identify the Correct Custodian of Records
One problem that personal injury law firms often face is getting their medical records request to the correct person, the custodian of
records. When a patient passes along their medical information to the law firm, he or she might provide the contact information from their medical invoices. But the billing department (the person handling the invoice) is often different from the records department (the person organizing the medical paperwork). They might not even be in the same building or even the same city. Or, the patient might only have information from a third-party contractor like an ambulance or an urgent care, when their medical records are held within the hospital or clinic.
The likelihood of one department forwarding the records request to the correct department is – you guessed it – slim to none. So, before you take the time to compile and submit a medical records request, make sure you have the correct facility, location, records custodian, and the custodian’s current contact information.
Be Thorough, But Not Too Broad
Medical records cost money. Yes, these documents provide the foundation to a personal injury case, but you don’t want to waste extra time and money on a request that’s too broad. If your goal is to obtain a list of medication, then only request that list, along with the date(s) of the hospital visit. If you only need neurology records, then be sure to specify that in the request, rather than asking for a copy of everything the hospital has on file. Be careful, though, that when you make a request that you ask for double-sided pages; while legal documents are typically front-only, many medical records and front-and-back. By limiting the scope of your request, you can keep costs down – and it also reduces the time needed to retrieve and compile the paperwork for you.
Once You Submit A Request, Be Sure to Track It
On average, the turnaround time on fulfilling medical records requests is about 30 days. This can vary depending on the type of the
facility, its size and location. Some facilities require that you mail or fax is in medical records request; however, some of the larger facilities now allow patients and third parties to submit their request through an online portal (to save paper and time). If the facility misplaces the request, deems the authorization or request incomplete/incorrect, or if the records request is missing payment – this can also cause problems and added delays.
To ensure that the paperwork is accurate, that the records custodian has everything they need, and that your request is being processed – you need to track it. Following-up your requests with regular emails or phone calls (or both) helps everyone to stay informed and keeps turnaround times as short as possible. You want to help your client get relief as soon as possible, and you also don’t want to miss any court deadlines.
When a personal injury law firm is working on a case, the legal team should know what records they have, what they still need, the status of the requests, and how to access the patient’s files they have on-hand. Knowing how to quickly and efficiently obtain a patient’s medical records can be a determining factor in the outcome of a case.
At USClaims, pre-settlement funding can help your clients pay those unexpected expenses in anticipation of a court judgment or settlement. Call 1-877-USCLAIMS today for the information you and your clients need and deserve.